Close front rounded vowel

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Close front rounded vowel
IPA number 309
Entity (decimal) y
Unicode (hex) U+0079
Kirshenbaum y
Braille ⠽ (braille pattern dots-13456)

The close front rounded vowel, or high front rounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. Acoustically it is a close front-central rounded vowel.[1] The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨y⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is y. Across many languages, it is most commonly represented orthographically as ⟨ü⟩ (in German, Turkish and Basque) or ⟨y⟩, but also as ⟨u⟩ (in French and a few other Romance languages and also in Dutch and the Kernewek Kemmyn standard of Cornish); ⟨iu⟩/⟨yu⟩ (in the romanization of various Asian languages); ⟨ű⟩ (in Hungarian for the long duration version; the short version is the ⟨ü⟩ found in other European alphabets); or ⟨уь⟩ (in Cyrillic-based writing systems such as that for Chechen)

Short /y/ and long /yː/ occurred in pre-Modern Greek. In the Attic and Ionic dialects of Ancient Greek, front [y yː] developed by fronting from back /u uː/ around the 6th to 7th century BC. A little later, the diphthong /yi/ when not before another vowel monophthongized and merged with long /yː/. In Koine Greek, the diphthong /oi/ changed to [yː], likely through the intermediate stages [øi] and [øː]. Through vowel shortening in Koine Greek, long /yː/ merged with short /y/. Later, /y/ unrounded to [i], yielding the pronunciation of Modern Greek. For more information, see the articles on Ancient Greek and Koine Greek phonology.

The close front rounded vowel is the vocalic equivalent of the labialized palatal approximant [ɥ]. The two are almost identical featurally. [y] alternates with [ɥ] in certain languages, such as French, and in the diphthongs of some languages, ⟨⟩ with the non-syllabic diacritic and ⟨ɥ⟩ are used in different transcription systems to represent the same sound.

The IPA prefers terms "close" and "open" for vowels, and the name of the article follows this. However, a large number of linguists, perhaps a majority[citation needed], prefer the terms "high" and "low".

In most languages, this rounded vowel is pronounced with compressed lips ('exolabial'). However, in a few cases the lips are protruded ('endolabial').

Close front compressed vowel[edit]

The close front compressed vowel is typically transcribed in IPA simply as ⟨y⟩, and that is the convention used in this article. There is no dedicated diacritic for compression in the IPA. However, the compression of the lips can be shown with the letter ⟨β̞⟩ as ⟨i͡β̞⟩ (simultaneous [i] and labial compression) or ⟨iᵝ⟩ ([i] modified with labial compression). The spread-lip diacritic ⟨  ͍ ⟩ may also be used with a rounded vowel letter ⟨⟩ as an ad hoc symbol, though technically 'spread' means unrounded.


IPA vowel chart
Front Near-​front Central Near-​back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg
i • y
ɨ • ʉ
ɯ • u
ɪ • ʏ
ɪ̈ • ʊ̈
ɯ̽ • ʊ
e • ø
ɘ • ɵ
ɤ • o
 • ø̞
ə • ɵ̞
ɤ̞ • 
ɛ • œ
ɜ • ɞ
ʌ • ɔ
æ • 
ɐ • ɞ̞
a • ɶ
ä • ɒ̈
ɑ • ɒ
Paired vowels are: unrounded • rounded
This table contains phonetic symbols, which may not display correctly in some browsers. [Help]

IPA help • IPA key • chart • Loudspeaker.svg chart with audio • view
  • Its vowel height is close, also known as high, which means the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
  • Its vowel backness is front, which means the tongue is positioned as far forward as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Note that rounded front vowels are often centralized, which means that often they are in fact near-front.
  • Its roundedness is compressed, which means that the margins of the lips are tense and drawn together in such a way that the inner surfaces are not exposed.


Because front rounded vowels are assumed to have compression, and few descriptions cover the distinction, some examples in the table below may actually have protrusion.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans uur [yːr] 'hour' See Afrikaans phonology
Albanian dy [dy] 'two'
Azeri güllə [ɟylˈlæ] 'bullet'
Basque Souletin hirü [hiɾy] 'three'
Bavarian Amstetten dialect[2] [example needed] Near-front.[2]
Breton tut [tyːd] 'people'
Catalan Northern[3] but [byt̪] 'aim' Found in Occitan and French loanwords. See Catalan phonology
Chechen уьш / üş [yʃ] 'they'
Chinese Cantonese /syu1 [syː˥] 'book' See Cantonese phonology
Mandarin 绿/lǜ About this sound [ly˥˩] 'green' See Mandarin phonology
Wu /gniu [ɲy˩˧] 'soft'
Chuvash ÿс / üs [ys] 'to grow'
Cornish tus [tyːz] 'people' Corresponds to /iː/ in "Late" dialect.
Danish Standard[4][5] synlig [ˈs̺y̠ːnli] 'visible' Near-front.[4][5] See Danish phonology
Dutch Standard Belgian[6] fuut About this sound [fy̠t] 'grebe' Near-front,[6] also described as near-close [ʏ].[7] See Dutch phonology
English General
South African[8]
few [fjyː] 'few' Some younger speakers, especially females. Others pronounce a more central vowel [ʉː]. See South African English phonology
Multicultural London[9] May be back [] instead.[9]
Scouse[10] May be central [ʉː] instead.
Ulster[11] Long allophone of /u/; occurs only after /j/.[11] See English phonology
Scottish [fjy] Some dialects. Corresponds to [u ~ ʉ] in other dialects. See English phonology
Estonian[12] üks [y̠ks] 'one' Near-front.[12] See Estonian phonology
Finnish[13][14] yksi [ˈy̠ksi] 'one' Near-front.[14] See Finnish phonology
French[15] chute About this sound [ʃyt̪] 'fall' See French phonology
German Standard[16] über About this sound [ˈʔy̠ːbɐ] 'over' Near-front.[16] See German phonology
Greek Tyrnavos[17] σάλιο/salio [ˈsäly] 'saliva' Corresponds to /jo/ in Standard Modern Greek.[17]
Hungarian[18] tű [t̪y̠ː] 'pin' Near-front.[18] See Hungarian phonology
Limburgish[19][20][21][22] bruudsje [ˈbʀ̝y̠t͡ʃə] 'breadroll' Near-front.[19][20][21][22] The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect.
Lombard düü [dyː] 'two'
Luxembourgish[23][24] Hüll [hyl] 'envelope' Occurs only in loanwords.[23][24] See Luxembourgish phonology
Mongolian[25] түймэр/tüimer [tʰyːmɘɾɘ̆] 'prairie fire'
North Frisian hüüs [hyːs] 'hoarse'
Occitan Gascon lua [ˈlyo̞] 'moon' See Occitan phonology
Languedocien luna [ˈlyno̞]
Piedmontese curt [kyrt] 'short'
Portuguese Azorean[26] figura [fiˈɣy̠ɾə] 'figure' Near-front. Stressed vowel, fronting of original /u/ in some dialects.[26] See Portuguese phonology
Peninsular[27] tudo [ˈt̪y̠ðu] 'all'
Brazilian[28] déjà vu [d̪e̞ʒɐ ˈvy] 'déjà vu' Found in French and German loanwords. Speakers may instead use [u] or [i]. See Portuguese phonology
Scots buit [byt] 'boot'
Slovak Standard[29] menu [ˈme̞ny] 'menu' Only in loanwords; may be closer to [i] or [u] instead. Reported only by one source from 1988.[30] See Slovak phonology
Turkish[31][32] güneş [ɟy̠ˈn̪e̞ʃ] 'sun' Near-front.[31] See Turkish phonology
West Frisian drúf [dryːf] 'grape' See West Frisian phonology

Close front protruded vowel[edit]

Close front protruded vowel

Catford notes that most languages with rounded front and back vowels use distinct types of labialization, protruded back vowels and compressed front vowels. However, a few languages, such as Scandinavian ones, have protruded front vowels. One of these, Swedish, even contrasts the two types of rounding in front vowels (see near-close near-front rounded vowel, with Swedish examples of both types of rounding).

As there are no diacritics in the IPA to distinguish protruded and compressed rounding, an old diacritic for labialization, ⟨  ̫⟩, will be used here as an ad hoc symbol for protruded front vowels. Another possible transcription is ⟨⟩ or ⟨⟩ (a close front vowel modified by endolabialization), but this could be misread as a diphthong.

Acoustically, this sound is "between" the more typical compressed close front vowel [y] and the unrounded close front vowel [i].


  • Its vowel height is close, also known as high, which means the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
  • Its vowel backness is near-front. also known as front-central or centralized front, which means the tongue is positioned almost as far forward as a front vowel.
  • Its roundedness is protruded, which means that the corners of the lips are drawn together, and the inner surfaces exposed.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Norwegian Standard Eastern[33] syd [sy̫ːd] 'south' See Norwegian phonology
Swedish Central Standard[34] yla About this sound [ˈŷ̫ːˌlâ̠] 'howl' May be a sequence [yɥ] instead.[35] See Swedish phonology

See also[edit]